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Vananidr - Damnation

by Kira Schlechter at 02 March 2020, 9:56 AM

I’m a black metal newbie, I won’t lie. So the Stockholm band VANANIDR, and their latest album “Damnation,” educated me – and I’m grateful for it. This, their third album, follows 2019’s “Road North” and their 2018 self-titled debut. And from it, I learned some of the hallmarks of the subgenre, some of which – the low-fi, DIY mixing, the non-traditional song structures (or complete lack thereof) – were familiar, some of which were not. Like in the opening track “Distilled,” which has a forebodingly and pleasingly dark guitar melody, but barely audible drums. Anders has that very recognizable nasal bellow and he’s pretty easy to understand, but why is there so little audible groove? A little research and I learned that black metal drumming is all about the treble – cymbals and kick drums – and much less about the bottom. So Ljusebring is apparently doing his job perfectly.

They have that very layered, dense sound – like WOLFHEART if I were to compare –  with guitar parts laden with tremolo picking (another black metal trademark), but the rhythm is almost impossible to follow from a drumming perspective. It’s really the riffing that sets the pace throughout. Anders may be speaking here about human nature, how evil is always there and finds new ways of expressing itself with successive generations, and the track’s end gets all stripped down, with several layers removed to quite a nice effect. These are long songs, each about six or seven minutes, but they are interesting enough to bear out that length.

The title track has a raw, organic start, with one guitar and a much slower tempo. The less dense sections, with some up-front bass playing by Anders, are an interesting change of pace, and when the guitar riff that starts the song also ends it, it’s a perfect way to bring it full circle. It hints at almost a Holocaust theme, with lines like “Entering the house of the dead/Gathering powers to control life and death,” and “Extreme wrath is laid upon the infidels,” and “Desperate to find/The final solution.” “Hunter” boasts a compelling guitar melody and a satisfying solo section that again has the riffing setting the smart, airtight tempo. The same thing happens toward the end, when the guitars set down a riff and gradually slow the beat, then lead the way to pick it up again. This is definitely depicting the Wild Hunt of Norse mythology, of spectral riders on ghostly horses riding through the sky, led by Odin “Riding the winds on stallion grey as ash,” and bringing death and destruction. Anders has a nice hand with lyrics, this being vivid and cinematic and telling the tale exactly as myth describes it.

“Tides of Blood” has a more defined structure in many ways, a discernible pattern, and lays down a sublime guitar melody that satisfyingly drifts in and out – there’s also a lovely solo section toward the close of this end-of-the-world, apocalyptic scenario. “Wounds of Old” also has a solid structure, especially between the verses and the brief, immediate choruses. It’s hypnotic and almost dirge-like, with more richly melodic, well-executed soloing, “Reflection,” conversely, is almost discordant and much more free-form. The introspective lyrics hint at perhaps a battle with depression, of being drawn into a metaphoric well (“Looking down the well/Deep down, a reflection/A reflection of the sky/A reflection of the mind/A reflection of I”). And the sound of the chorus echoes the action in a way – you can hear and feel the sound bouncing off the narrow walls.

“Void” is notable for its chorus – it’s succinct and to the point. And VANANIDR are better when they do this, rather than being more loose with structure, even though yeah, that’s a black metal thang. Anders and Rickard play most evocatively here and have an ear for creating melodies that linger in your brain. So there are plenty of moments of dark beauty and meaning here, for both the black metal aficionado and the neophyte.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 6

4 Star Rating

1. Distilled
2. Damnation
3. Hunter
4. Tides of Blood
5. Wounds of Old
6. Refection
7. Void
Anders Ericksson - Vocals, Guitar, Bass
Rickard Silversjo - Guitars
Ljusebring Terrorblaster - Drums
Record Label: Purity Through Fire Records


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